Joe Willock looking to continue progression at Emirates Cup


In the final U23 game of last season Arsenal took on Manchester United at Emirates Stadium, with Chris and Joe Willock on the same side.

On Saturday, with Arsenal facing Benfica in the Emirates Cup, there is a possibility that the pair could be up against eachother, and the fact that they could even be involved at all is testament to the impact that they have made in the ensuing period.

Chris Willock left Arsenal for Benfica when his contract expired at the end of last month yet it was initially anticipated that the winger would play for the Portuguese club’s B team.

Such has been his progress, Willock has trained regularly with Benfica’s senior squad and is now in contention to feature for Rui Vitoria’s side at the Emirates Cup.

It is Joe Willock’s development, though, which has been more staggering.

The younger Willock had long been earmarked as an exciting talent but there appeared a possibility that he too could leave Arsenal on a free transfer when his previous deal expired in June.

However, he elected to stay with the Gunners and, so far at least, he has benefited from that decision having produced some encouraging performances during the club’s pre-season tour of Australia and China.

Although he had previously mainly been deployed further up the pitch, Joe Willock has been used as a deep-lying midfielder by Arsene Wenger and he has adapted to the requirements of that position extremely well.

During the aforementioned pre-season games he snapped into tackles with regularity and also burst forwards when the opportunity presented itself, frequently getting into the opposing penalty area.

A skillful player, Willock has also become significantly stronger physically over the past couple of seasons and now appears ready in that regard for senior football, even though his game time this season is likely to be restricted to a few cup appearances.

For much of last season Willock was with the U18s and sometimes wasn’t even able to command a starting berth at that age group.

Now, though, he is very much on the fringes of the first-team, joining Reiss Nelson in being one of the youngsters closest to making the breakthrough.

The Emirates Cup represents another chance for Joe Willock to showcase his credentials, this time in front of the home crowd. Being able to play against his brother would make the occasion extra special.

Jeorge Bird is the author of, follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird

newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Sounds impressive Joe Willock. But can someone clarify something? Last season he was in the fringes of the U-18s and now he is on the fringes of the first team? Thats some development!! What exactly did he change that his ability has sky-rocketed?

The Kenyan Mbappe ??

Just as curious as you are? Hope it’s not a case of the other players are not showing the talent and mentality to match.

Xhaka Demus, no pliers

I watched a fair bit of the u-23’s over the last couple of years and I think it’s his tenacity that sets him apart from a lot of the midfielders I’ve seen. He wants to win the ball and is aggressive in his tackling. We have a lot of skilful players at youth level who are good on the ball but not many have that same desire to ‘get stuck in,’ for want of a better phrase. Despite being physically smaller than a lot of them he hasn’t let that hold him back. Hopefully his progress will continue


i follow academy matches regularly even if i cannot dont all of them . and without doubt joe willock is one of the best talents we have . reiss nelson is arguably better among two and is rightly getting all the plaudits . but if it wasnt for him we’d be hearing about younger willock a lot more . both of those players every time they plays makes the difference for the team . in my opinion joe is even better than chris willock , and without doubt better than the likes of foreign players like jeff , fortune dragomir… Read more »


I think it’s as simple as muscle mass.

Terry Henry

Really like the look of some of the youngsters. Would love to see another iwobi-esk break through next season


Makes a pleasant change to hear a report of something positive, rather than the doom and gloom we normally get force fed.


Looking forward to seeing him again. He and Nelson impressed in Australia – I know that’s a long way from serious opposition but it’s promising. Let’s hope they can improve further – we have to remember though that for every Alex Iwobi, there are several Chupa Akpoms.


Joe Willock..Same initials as Jack Wilshere. Hope he turns out as good eventually, minus the injuries of course. Best of luck Joe.

Gunner Bill

clutching at straws a bit there mate about the initials. share the sentiment though


I hope we give the youngsters more chances, especially in the Europa league group stages. The likes of Maitland-Niles, Willock and Nelson will benefit from 6 competitive European games. Give them chances to gain experience and then they will be ready to contribute to games in the Premier League, and from next year the Champions League (ahem ahem)

Tom Gun

The problem with that is that it would come at the expense of the first team squad members not getting in the 1st XI. For example, Willock and Maitland-Niles are predominantly central midfielders (although they can play elsewhere). As things stand, Ramsey and Xhaka are the first choice CM pairing. So, playing Willock and Maitland Niles would mean that Coquelin, Elneny, Wilshere and the Ox (in his preferred position) would miss out. This is an example of why it’s so hard for talented youngsters to make the breakthrough at the top clubs. Another good example is Emi Martinez. I think… Read more »

Tom Gun

And I haven’t mentioned the fact that we are all calling for a new CM signing as we are short in that department.

Also….Santi! Recent news suggests his return may be more imminent than previously thought. Great wonderful news for Arsenal. But it makes it even harder for the youngsters… be clear I’m definitely not complaining about the return of Santi or having this problem of too many Cms.

Faisal Narrage

I do wonder about Naitland-Miles and if he could be the ideal CM we’re looking for next to Xhaka?

For all his defensive impovements, it’s forgotten that he’s actually an attacking winger. He’s got the athleticism and build to play that box to box CM role as he did on loan. Almost like a mini-Vieira (not even claiming he’s to that degree, just following up on my premise that the ideal partner to Xhaka isn’t a Santi-type, but a Vieira-type, ala the Petit-Vieira combo of old).


Exciting youngster to watch. He has been positive during pre-season. Hope he makes it with the seniors.


Just goes to show how a young player can mature over 12 months.
Hopefully he’ll continue his development in the League/UEFA Cups alongside 2 or 3 more of our promising youngsters.
Good luck to them.

Faisal Narrage

“Kill Bart, Kill Bart, Kill Bart.”

“Kill, Bart. Kill, Bart. Kill, Bart.”

David Hillier\'s luggage

He’s an exciting player for sure, I just don’t want to get my hopes up too high about him given the moves both his brothers have made in recent season.


He’s done good Joe.

That said all the young players are better served on strong loans- willock /Maitland-Niles /Bramall /Nelson.

In midfield, we need a player with a bit of experience who had been knocked around a bit…not knocked around like Jack but experience counts